Brittany Force made her last Top Fuel qualifying run count in a major way on Saturday, powering to the No. 1 spot at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 in their respective categories at the second race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Force, who sat out the bulk of the 2020 NHRA season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, jumped to the top spot with a run of 3.732-seconds at 320.66 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Flav-R-Pac dragster. It came during the final qualifying session and gives the former world champ her first No. 1 qualifier of the year and the 21st in her career.
She’ll face off with Antron Brown and Justin Ashley to open eliminations. Steve Torrence was bumped to the second position after his run of 3.741 at 328.94 from Friday and Doug Kalitta moved up to third in the final session with his pass of 3.743 at 314.83.
“It just shows this team has picked up right where we left off,” said Force, who won the fall race at Vegas in 2019. “We had a long time being away from the races, and coming back to Gainesville, we found our routine pretty quickly. Coming here and taking this No. 1 qualifier (spot), we’re excited and pumped. Thank you to David Grubnic, Mac Savage, and all of these Flav-R-Pac guys. We want to go out and win this thing. That’s our focus tomorrow, winning this thing and bringing home our first win of the season.”
Hight helped make it a clean sweep in nitro qualifying for John Force Racing, blasting to the No. 1 position in Funny Car by going 3.882 at 331.85 in his 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS in the final qualifying quad on Saturday. Alexis DeJoria had bumped Hight out of the top spot, but the veteran standout moved back to No. 1 with his stellar run moments later, earning his 69th career No. 1 qualifier. He’ll be joined by Cruz Pedregon, J.R. Todd and Jonnie Lindberg in the opening round of eliminations. John Force jumped DeJoria as well, finishing No. 2 with his run of 3.898 at 330.72, while DeJoria’s 3.912 at 321.04 puts her in the third spot.
“(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock has called every single run we’ve made this weekend,” said Hight, a five-time Vegas winner. “They have this Auto Club Chevrolet working great. We’ve got to go three rounds tomorrow and I think we’re in a good position to do that.”
Anderson continued his dominant start to the 2021 Pro Stock season, taking the No. 1 spot for the second straight race thanks to his run of 6.638 at 205.85 in his DENSO Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. It also gives the four-time world champ his 108th career No. 1 qualifier. Anderson will try for his second straight victory as well on Sunday and will be part of an opening-round quad that includes Fernando Cuadra, Val Smeland and Aaron Stanfield. Matt Hartford qualified second with his 6.650 at 205.01 and Kyle Koretsky jumped to the third spot on his final pass with a 6.651 at 205.38, but Anderson remained a step ahead of everyone.
“We’re on a roll and the car is making beautiful runs,” said Anderson, who has eight career wins in Las Vegas. “We had a great weekend in Gainesville and so far this weekend, the car has made three flawless runs, and in front of (team owner) Ken Black. That’s what is important to me. We’re on his home turf and I love racing out here. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. So far, so good and this Denso Chevy has been on point, so let’s see if we can close the deal.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, provisional No. 1 qualifier M. Smith simply got better on Saturday, claiming the No. 1 spot with his impressive pass of 6.890 at 196.59 on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR. That gives Smith, the defending world champ, his 44th career No. 1 qualifier and in an ideal position to win his second straight race to open 2021. His first-round opponents are Ryan Oehler and Karen Stoffer. Matt’s wife, Angie, remained in the second spot with her 6.909 at 195.51 and she will look to win in Vegas for the second straight race. Steve Johnson qualified third with a 6.935 at 191.57.
“All in all, we just wanted to show how good we are, this DENSO motorcycle at this DENSO race. That’s what it’s all about,” Smith said. “Everybody who helps us, we really appreciate it.”
Eliminations at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin at noon PT on Sunday. Television coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
LAS VEGAS — First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 21st annual DENSO Spark Plug NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the second of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Brittany Force, 3.732 seconds, 325.53 mph vs. Bye vs. vs. 8. Antron Brown, 3.808, 314.83 vs. 9. Justin Ashley, 3.821, 301.20; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.741, 328.94 vs. 15. Cameron Ferre, 6.305, 107.62 vs. 7. Leah Pruett, 3.800, 312.13 vs. 10. Greg Carrillo, 3.827, 321.04; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 314.83 vs. 14. Rob Passey, 5.968, 117.96 vs. 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.785, 310.05 vs. 11. Troy Buff, 3.849, 299.66; 4. Clay Millican, 3.759, 323.12 vs. 13. Todd Paton, 5.272, 134.90 vs. 5. Billy Torrence, 3.769, 326.56 vs. 12. Jim Maroney, 4.014, 305.98.
Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.882, 331.85 vs. 16. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.384, 288.58 vs. 8. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 3.960, 323.50 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.980, 325.14; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.898, 330.72 vs. 15. Chris Morel, Charger, 4.183, 270.21 vs. 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.946, 325.22 vs. 10. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.996, 317.94; 3. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.912, 321.04 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.159, 299.06 vs. 6. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.929, 324.05 vs. 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.998, 314.24; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.919, 323.89 vs. 13. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.097, 269.94 vs. 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.923, 329.10 vs. 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.090, 308.71. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.525, 202.58; 18. Alex Miladinovich, 4.821, 189.60; 19. Steven Densham, 14.954, 889.91.
Pro Stock — 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.638, 205.85 vs. 16. Fernando Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.725, 203.95 vs. 8. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.667, 205.94 vs. 9. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.671, 205.66; 2. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.650, 205.01 vs. 15. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.715, 204.51 vs. 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.662, 205.26 vs. 10. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.676, 205.41; 3. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.651, 205.38 vs. 14. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.697, 204.76 vs. 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.659, 206.29 vs. 11. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.679, 204.91; 4. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.655, 205.63 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.693, 205.07 vs. 5. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.656, 204.91 vs. 12. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.680, 206.26. Did Not Qualify: 17. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 6.735, 203.86; 18. Alan Prusiensky, 6.780, 205.38.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.890, 196.59 vs. Bye vs. vs. 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.980, 192.74 vs. 9. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 7.034, 191.81; 2. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.909, 195.51 vs. Bye vs. vs. 7. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.953, 193.68 vs. 10. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.03; 3. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.935, 192.77 vs. Bye vs. vs. 6. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.949, 193.54 vs. 11. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.134, 189.68; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.939, 195.17 vs. 13. David Barron, EBR, broke vs. 5. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.946, 193.65 vs. 12. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.399, 179.18.